The CPUC has launched a proceeding to consider whether to re-authorize the $165 million per year Electricity Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program. The program was created by the CPUC in 2012 to replace the Public Goods Charge. The California Energy Commission and electric utilities administer the program, which is focused on clean energy R&D, technology demonstration and deployment, and market facilitation. EPIC funding has helped accelerate development of next generation bioenergy projects, using cleaner and more efficient technologies and producing beneficial byproducts like biochar. EPIC funding has also helped to better quantify and reduce emissions from bioenergy facilities to continue to increase the benefits and minimize impacts.
CPUC programs related to distributed generation resources.
BAC filed comments on the CPUC’s BioMAT Staff Proposal to support the proposal and request clarification of several items. The most important changes recommended in the Staff Proposal would:
- Extend the end date to the end of 2025
- Increase operational flexibility and revise burdensome penalty provisions
- Make the program a statewide program
BAC supported these changes and requested that they apply to existing BioMAT contracts. BAC also asked for clarification on the proposed greenhouse gas modeling. And BAC has asked the CPUC to remove the utility service territory restriction as part of the move to make the BioMAT a statewide program.
In early March, the CPUC released a revised Staff Proposal on the BioMAT program. The Staff Proposal contains 15 separate and significant proposals to revise the BioMAT program. Generally, the proposals are quite helpful and some – extending the program end date – are absolutely critical. The most significant recommendations in the Staff Proposal would:
- Extend the BioMAT program end date from December 31, 2020 to December 31, 2025;
- Make the program statewide, allowing other purchasers of BioMAT power, instead of limiting it to the three investor-owned utilities;
- Provide greater operational flexibility and reduce some of the excessive penalty provisions;
- Extend the time allowed for projects to begin commercial operation;
- Set deadlines for utilities to execute contracts; and
- Require projects to provide lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions analyses
BAC’s comments on the CPUC Staff Proposal on Microgrids focus on the need to include bioenergy and biogas in microgrids. Relying on solar and batteries alone limits the duration that microgrids can operate. Bioenergy can extend the duration of microgrids and make them much more reliable by providing a fuel source for backup generators, flexible generation that can fill in around solar and batteries, energy storage, and other grid services.
SB 1339 (Stern 2018) requires the California Public Utilities Commission to adopt a measures to accelerate the development of microgrids to ensure reliable electricity supplies during Public Safety Power Shutoffs and other grid disturbances. Microgrids are especially important to keep the power on for emergency and essential services. The CPUC Staff Proposal for short-term actions that can help microgrids before the 2020 fire season focuses very narrowly on microgrids powered by solar and batteries, which are not sufficient for long-duration outages and will not be effective under all circumstances.
BAC submitted comments in late October on the CPUC’s Order Instituting Rulemaking. BAC urged the Commission to address the need for baseload and flexible generation, to consider opportunities to convert local organic waste to local energy supplies, to include renewable gas for microgrid reliability, to consider the importance of Short-Lived Climate Pollutant reductions, and to consider other upstream benefits like wildfire mitigation and landfill reduction. BAC’s comments are on BAC’s website.
The CPUC is expected to issue the Scoping Ruling in early 2020 and to complete the development of the microgrid framework by the end of 2020.
In September, the CPUC launched a new proceeding to develop a policy framework for microgrids. Microgrids are defined areas of the grid that can operate as part of the larger grid and can also be completely disconnected from (operate independently from) the larger electricity grid. Microgrids include the energy producers, transmission and distribution lines, and energy end users that are within a defined electricity boundary. The goal of establishing microgrids is to enable communities to have a fully independent grid that can operate even when there are disturbances to the regional grid. The recent Public Safety Power Shutoffs have underscored the urgency of developing microgrids, especially for essential services like firefighters and police, hospitals, wastewater treatment, communications, and more.
The CPUC launched the new proceeding to develop the framework for commercializing microgrids. It will consider the appropriate standards, eligible technologies, rates, tariffs and other issues for microgrid development in California.
See the CPUC’s Order Instituting this new Rulemaking: OIR on Microgrids Rulemaking (R.19-09-009)
Congratulations to BAC members Camptonville Community Partnership, CLERE, Inc., and the Mariposa Biomass Project, which were among 39 projects around the country to receive Wood Innovation Grants from the U.S. Forest Service. The grants will help to develop much-needed forest biomass projects in local communities. These projects will help to reduce the risks and spread of wildfire, provide renewable energy, reduce air pollution and climate emissions from burning of forest waste, and increase community resilience by providing jobs and local energy supplies.
Click here to learn more about the projects and the grants.
The BioMAT Stepping Stones Guide provides a step-by-step guide to participating in the BioMAT (small-scale bioenergy) program, administered by the state’s investor-owned utilities.
Download the BioMAT Stepping Stones Guide.